Monster Mistake

27 03 2008

When the Obama campaign decided to fire its foreign policy guru Samantha Power for calling Hillary Clinton “a monster,” I immediately thought it was a big mistake. In my mind, it made Obama appear weak and over reactive. Hendrick Hertzberg at the New Yorker apparently felt the same way and even devoted a part of a recent post on the controversy to what the statement from the Obama campaign should have been as soon as the story broke. I wholeheartedly agree with Hertzberg’s fictious press release below.

My friend and adviser Samantha Power made a serious mistake when she shot her mouth off in such an unpleasant manner. What she said was rude and thoughtless. I know she regrets it. She has apologized to me and to Senator Clinton, whom she admires and respects. On behalf of my campaign, I apologize to Senator Clinton as well.

Samantha believed she was what journalists call “off the record” when she made that angry remark. She is a scholar who is fairly new to the political arena and apparently didn’t realize that according to the rules of the game you have to say clearly that a conversation with a journalist is “off the record” ahead of time. You can’t say something first and then put it “off the record” afterwards, even in the next breath. Samantha is an academic, but she has traveled the world as a foreign correspondent and she should have known better.

People in the Clinton campaign are demanding that I fire her. I’m not going to do that. Samantha Power is a passionate witness and advocate for some of the most miserable and persecuted people on earth. Before people judge her I suggest they take a look at her book “‘A Problem from Hell’: America and the Age of Genocide.” It deserved the prizes it won—the Pulitzer, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Arthur Ross Prize for the best book in U.S. foreign policy. You can’t read her firsthand reports on the horrors in Darfur without realizing that this is a woman of great moral and physical courage. She may be quick to anger, but here’s a news flash: nobody’s perfect. Samantha’s skills and expertise are a potentially valuable resource not just for this campaign but for our country. I’m not about to cast her into the outer darkness because of a single naïve and stupid instance of bad judgment.

Samantha said what she said in anger and she said it in what she thought was a private conversation. That mitigates her behavior. It doesn’t excuse it. I’ve suspended her from my campaign. I’ve reprimanded her and given her a month-long time out. I’ve told her to go back to her campus, calm down, and come back after she’s thought about what she did.

But let’s keep this in perspective. If saying something dumb and ugly in a supposedly private conversation were automatically a firing offense, the unemployment rate would quickly reach 100 per cent.

On second thought, I think I would have eliminated that last paragraph.

At any rate, check out Samantha Power provide a nuanced take on the inadequacies and even counterproductive strategy of American democracy promotion in the video clip below.

Watch it.

And click here to read her blog.

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3 responses

27 03 2008
Wayne

I think it was his intent to keep his campaign above a certain line and to truly be a uniter and not divisive. The problem is that a lot of people in the party want Barack to get “battle tested” by the Clintons.

While i appreciate the sentiment, he’s going to have to play much harder hardball than this , and i don’t see how he can do it and still stay above the fray, or at the very least appear above the fray.

But in the light of Bill’s ‘lets saddle up’ and fight remarks, i i’d like for them to pick samantha power back up in an advisory role to see what’s said about it-

I’m pretty sick of this kitchen sink strategy that Hillary’s sunk herself to to try to gain some traction.

And the polls are suggesting that the public doesn’t appreciate this type of infighting, either.

27 03 2008
KUT

I don’t mean to suggest that he should rehire her now after he already fired her. I just wish the campaign simply suspended her for a little while and let the stuff just blow over. That would allow her to go out and promote her book while still being a surrogate on her own time with Obama 08 pin and all.

At any rate, it might just be a moot point altogether, since if he wins, she will definitely be in his administration, probably serving as National Security Adviser or a deputy.

27 03 2008
Wayne

Naw, you didn’t suggest it, I did. I’d love to see the talking heads explode because of a decision to rehire her.

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